Young black men, be better fathers than your fathers

December 30, 2012 § 11 Comments

Extract taken from my book, In My Arrogant Opinion, published in June 2012


Many young black South Africans carry around bitterness towards their fathers for a variety of reasons. One of the major reasons is because their fathers have been fathers in name only, and not in actions. The only thing they seem expert in is making babies – and then abandoning them. I have heard many people simply call their fathers sperm donors. I have heard people refer to their fathers as ‘that thing’. The great bitterness towards fathers has less to do with hate than deep-seated disappointment. It is because they know what fathers are supposed to do. When they don’t do what they are meant to, bitterness sets in. But this does not mean that they hate their fathers. A myriad of contradictory feelings settle upon many children directed at their fathers.

A large number of black fathers should be ashamed of themselves. They have not taken responsibility after enjoying some hanky panky. They are like gangbangers in projects in the United States when gang violence was rife, and drive-bys. They practise what one could call bang-bys. It is no coincidence then that one of the reasons we experience high levels of crime in South Africa is precisely because fathers have abdicated their duties as men. The greatest crime that has been committed against black South African children has to be that of fathers abandoning their children. In fact, I don’t know if a large section of black fathers deserves the honour of being called men at all. Boys would be more appropriate considering the behaviour of many of our fathers.

This is not meant to take anything away from the many great fathers who know what it means to be a man. Those men who look after and show their children through actions as well words that they love them. Some fathers think that throwing money at their children is being a father. We all know that they do this to avoid confronting the fact that they haven’t been fathers. Money will never take the place of an absent father. Children want their fathers to be around more than they want their father’s money.

According to AMPS, 65% of women in South Africa with babies under the age of two are single (never married and not living together). In 2006, this proportion was 50%. Obviously there is a serious underlying problem with society. Towning and running.

When I was in high school I noticed that a large portion of black children had absent fathers. In one of my classes over 70% of the black children had fathers who were not around. They were there but they were missing. Not in a ‘Let’s file a missing person’s report’ manner, they just didn’t live at home with their children. Most of these children might as well have been raised by single parents, their mothers. The determination and strength of the black woman has never been applauded as well is it ought to have been. Black mothers have single-handedly raised the black nation. They have not been given the credit they deserve.

What absent fathers fail to realise is that children who grow up without fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty and 20 times more likely to commit crimes. They are more likely to be teen parents. They are more likely to end up in jail. When fathers abandon their children, they don’t simply abandon them; they might as well be taking a bright future away from them. Absent fathers steal from their children.

Fathers have a responsibility not only to raise children. They are raising a nation. It is this realisation that needs to be planted in our heads.

No one is saying that fatherhood is easy. It isn’t. But a real man is the one who takes responsibility for his actions and for his loved ones. A father must do whatever he can to be the father he has to be. He should not use the convenient excuse of baby and mama drama – that she has cut him off from his child or children. A real man won’t let that stop him.

Sometimes women think they are protecting the children from heartbreak by having no contact with the father. You can understand it when the father vanishes for years, then at some point decides to be available, and then becomes absent again.

Many young women are afraid of marriage because of how they have seen their own fathers behave. They have not been great examples of the fathers that their daughters need them to be. Many young men have not been disciplined or taught by their fathers. These young men think that being a man means being macho, being aggressive and physically tough, because they have not been around their fathers long enough to know how a father, a man, should behave.

All my life my father has been absent, but his absence was not of his own choosing. He passed away before I’d had my fifth birthday and long before he had any opportunity to disappoint me in a way I could understand. Now this begs the question: would he have behaved in the same way as other fathers had he lived longer? Would he have abandoned his offspring as most black fathers seem to?

We have to acknowledge that there is a problem with black fathers. This is not to say that all black fathers are problematic. There are many excellent black fathers. Nor am I saying that this is an exclusively black problem. However, in my experience I have noticed that it is largely a black problem.

We can’t simply pass this off as a legacy of the past. It is true, we do have something to blame: apartheid. But there is no future in living in the past. We can only make our future by looking forward while recognising that we were short-changed in the past. We cannot keep using the past as an excuse. We have to do something about it.

As young men, we ought to try not to be like our fathers. We should be better than them. Even if you had a good father, aiming to be better than him is a noble pursuit. Our parents and the generations before them want us to be better than them; they don’t want us to set the bar lower. They set it high because they want us to clear it and we need to set it even higher for generations that come after us.

My greatest fear is being a bad husband or a bad father. My greatest fear also happens to give rise to my greatest hope – that I will be a great husband and father. As young men we need to hope for this and work towards it.

I hope that every single man my age and younger who had an absent father resolves not to be the father he had. If there is anything we should learn from our fathers, it is not to treat our families as the majority of our fathers have. Building a great nation starts in the family, and fathers have a greater role in this than many of us are willing to admit. There should be nothing acceptable about scarring our children by being absent.

Men, you have a duty and responsibility to raise a great nation, and women, you have a duty to allow men to be fathers as well.

§ 11 Responses to Young black men, be better fathers than your fathers

  • I agree that it is the man’s fault always, but only because God put man as the head of the family. If something goes wrong in that family, the head has to take responsibility. He cannot say: “It is the woman.”

    Having said that, I think we idolize women too much. For instance, if women have single-handedly raised the black nation, who has raised these dysfunctional males? Women. Therefore, they are doing something wrong too. However, man is the head of the family; and is responsible for all the ills in families.

    • Ursula says:

      I think you’re missing the point, and turning this into a vicious circle

    • Lelethu says:

      You right Gibson women are idolized and man were created as the heads. Even though they not perfect women are idolized when it comes to raising kids because they take responsibility for their (as Khaya puts it) “towning”, while on the other hand the heads disappear . Point of correction Desmond these men are not “taking the fall” for things going wrong in families because their are “heads”, they’re in that position because they are not playing the part of being heads. Again you are right when you say these “dysfunctional” males are raised by women and I will tell you this: there are many dimensions to raising a child and as a woman you can only do so much trying to raise a male child. I’m a single mom raising 6 year old boys and I remember having to teach them to raise the toilet seat when they go pee. I remember getting worried cause it hit me that there’s gonna be other things that they need to be taught\told and I wouldn’t know about them. All I can do is do the best I can, hope and pray that they turn out fine.

    • Azi says:

      Gibson,I get your point but you have forgoten to mention is that,these women who raised this black nation did it on their own.A child needs love from both sides of the fence.Just like in algebra “do on the left what you do on the right”. To drill the point across,no woman can ever raise a nation alone without the head being there.A helper is only that when it is shown or guided to what needs to be done.We like quoting bible scriptures to suit our own uses but when it’s crunch time we distance ourselves.Man is not meant to be alone,hence God created Eve for Adam as a helper not someone to bombard with what women today are bombarded with.A woman is made for comfort and not for strength hence there will be faults when she is expected/forced to play two roles,the one she knows and the one she was never exposed to *being a man*.

  • Ursula says:

    Well said, I wish all men can read and meditate on this at some point in their lives

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